'John Walsh Show:' Victim Couldn't Say Attacker Was a Cop

July 7, 2008 - 8:21 PM

Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - A guest on a recent episode of the "John Walsh Show" said Friday that producers would not let her identify the man who sexually assaulted her as an off-duty police officer for fear of damaging Walsh's relationship with the law enforcement community. The program was promoted as featuring women who own firearms for personal protection but was instead, the women said, a thinly veiled attack on gun ownership.

In an exclusive interview with CNSNews.com, Tiffany Hyatt Theriot said she was told only moments before taping for the April 29 episode of the program began that she could not identify even her attacker's profession.

"John didn't want me to mention that I had been violated by a cop," she said.

Theriot said she was specifically instructed by Jennifer Ulrich, one of the show's producers, not to make any reference to who had sexually assaulted her.

"Oh, by the way, you can talk about the rape, but don't mention that he's a cop. John doesn't want you to," Ulrich reportedly told Theriot. "John said: 'No, we don't want to talk about bad cops.'"

Theriot's account of the events is supported by two of the other women who appeared on the program with her and were present during the conversation.

"It was after their meeting with John that they decided they were not going to let it be known that he was a cop," said Maria Heil, the national spokeswoman for the Second Amendment Sisters, a group that promotes self-defense options for women.

"They didn't tell her that until right before we were starting to tape," Lisa Marquez, a survivor of domestic abuse by a former spouse, recalled. "Jennifer came back and said, 'We're sorry, you can't say that [he is a law enforcement officer]."

Marquez said she had been told by the producers days earlier that she could not say that it was an ex-husband who had abused her. She said when she threatened not to appear on the program unless she could accurately relate the details of her experience, the show's staff relented.

"I felt sorry for Tiffany because they sprang it on her while she was there," Marquez said.

Repeated calls to the publicity office for the "John Walsh Show" seeking comment on the allegations in this article were not returned.

'I had so much respect for his show...'

Theriot said the producers of the show contacted her employer - a gun dealer and shooting range in Baton Rouge, La. - looking for a woman who currently carried a gun because of the Baton Rouge serial murders, fears of terrorism or for some other safety-related reason but had not carried a weapon for self-defense until recently.

"They had me on the other end of the phone, and I told them, 'I'm basically exactly what you just described,'" she recalled.

After relating the details of the assault against her - including the identification of her assailant as a law enforcement officer - Theriot was invited to New York to appear on the program with Heil and Marquez.

"I had so much respect for his show and 'America's Most Wanted' and where he's been and how he has raised up his cause that I was more than proud to do that," she explained.

But Theriot noted that - between not being allowed to tell one of the most important details of her ordeal and the manner in which she and the other pro-gun women on the program were treated once taping began - that respect is gone.

"That's why I was so devastated by what was done to us," she added. "When somebody you respect and admire hurts you, it hurts 10 times more than if it was some stranger who you didn't care about."

'We were promised it would not be a debate'

As CNSNews.com previously reported, the pro-gun women feel they were misled about the purpose of the program.

"They had promised both of us that it wasn't going to be a debate, that it was going to be about me and Tiffany and what happened to us, and probably a couple of other people like us, to empower women," Marquez recalled. "I told them, 'If this is going to be a debate, I'm not doing this.'"

Heil had a similar discussion with Walsh's producers.

"I was told that it was not going to be a debate, that it was going to be four women who owned guns, and I was told that one would be an 'ex-gangbanger' who doesn't exactly agree with us, but she owns a gun," Heil recalled.

The episode was billed as "Women and Guns: The Best Defense?" and featured numerous anti-gun speakers who continuously interrupted and berated the three pro-gun guests.

'Alleged audience member was wearing microphone'

Alexandra Jewett, executive producer of the "John Walsh Show," first told CNSNews.com that a spokesperson for the anti-gun organization "Million Mom March" just happened to be in the audience.

"She was sitting in the audience. She wasn't an invited guest. She wasn't there on 'home base' with an open mic[rophone] on," Jewett explained. "John had to walk over to her to get a comment. She had an opinion. She was entitled to give her opinion in the show."

Jewett later acknowledged that Diane was, in fact, placed in the audience by the show's producers "because one of the women was affiliated with the Sisters of the Second Amendment [sic], who go head-to-head with Million Mom March all the time."

A review of the video from the program clearly shows that, contrary to Jewett's claim, Diane was wearing a wireless lapel microphone for the length of the broadcast.

'I was just dashed and squashed and spit on'

Theriot said she agreed to go on the program for the same reasons she works at a gun dealer and shooting range and counsels women on self-defense options.

"I am trying to stand up for myself and fight...to rectify a problem," she said, referring to her own experience. "The only reason I'm really doing it is so that I can effect change for other women."

That desire, she added, is what attracted her to Walsh's program.

"He's my hero when it comes to that and then, the way I was just dashed and squashed and spit on, on his show," she concluded, "made me feel just abandoned."

E-mail a news tip to Jeff Johnson.

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